CARL Lowe launched a brilliant carp blitz in the last hour as he joined forces with Martin Howcroft to capture the £6,000 first prize in the final of the £21,000 Embassy Challenge, the world’s No.1 pairs event, in Spain at the weekend.

Lowe, a 32-year-old fishing tackle shop manager from Farnworth, Bolton, and Howcroft, 40, and a self-employed plasterer from Westhoughton, Bolton, were in joint first place after the first day with 39 points as the two day final was fished on the Riba Roja Reservoir and the River Ebro.

And the BAS Sensas pair held on to secure a fantastic victory with a total of 70 points – five points clear of former England star Kim Milsom and Matt Greaves, both from Cirencester, Gloucs.

Howcroft, who had the heaviest weight on day one with a carp haul from the river scaling 12.060 kg, landed just two tiny black bass on the reservoir on day two and then heard that, with a couple of hours to go, partner Lowe hadn’t caught a fish!

But that situation changed dramatically as a delighted Lowe said: “I had my first bite with about 90 minutes to go. I didn’t land that one but, with about one hour to go, I landed four carp in four casts. Then I had three more carp before the final whistle. This is the best result Martin and I have had – it’s the first time I have fished abroad and it’s brilliant that we are the Embassy Challenge champions.”

Lowe finished with an outstanding weight of 18.360 kg to claim the maximum 20 points in his section while Howcroft’s 0.040 kg on the more difficult reservoir stretch earned him 11 vital points. That gave them fourth place on the day and, with a total of 70 points over the two days, they were crowned Embassy Challenge champions.

Fishing a groundbait feeder at 35 yards, Lowe fished single and double sweetcorn on a size 10 hook to 15 lb line and a 12 lb hook length to combat the thick weed that saw many anglers lose good fish over the two days. On day one, Lowe had finished second in his section on the reservoir with a fine net of bleak scaling 4.160 kg.

Lowe said: “We had spoken to many anglers about last year’s event and we just bought over heavier tackle for the carp. As the conditions were more difficult and the carp were not feeding that well, we decided that we needed much lighter tackle to catch the smaller fish on the reservoir.

“Martin did have a small telescopic rod with him but we had to go to the café at the campground near the reservoir where they sell some fishing tackle. We bought the lightest line and the smallest hooks they had and they paid dividends for both of us.”

On day one, Howcroft fished a feeder to land six carp and had to use a 3 oz lead to hold bottom in the fast-running Ebro. Fishing double sweetcorn on a size 10 hook to 15 lb line, Howcroft said: “I had two fish early on, then two more after about three hours and landed two more in the last hour. On day two, I caught a couple of really small black bass close to the reeds in the first 30 minutes and then had to sweat it out. In the end, those two little bass were worth £3,000 each.

“When I heard that Carl hadn’t caught a fish with two hours to go, I thought our chances had gone but Carl had an amazing last hour and it’s just fantastic that we have won this title. It’s been a brilliant trip and my best-ever result.” Now they will spend the money by treating their families to a holiday and some presents!

In second place and collecting a cheque for £3,000 were the Cirencester, Gloucs, duo of former England star Kim Milsom, a 43-year-old social services care worker, and Matt Greaves, 28, and a monumental mason. Milsom, who won numerous medals including two Team golds during his England career, used his vast experience on day one when he was pegged in an area that went to 80 feet deep!

“I just didn’t think it was worth going for the carp in such deep water, so I fished for the bleak close in straight from the start. In the end, I landed 392 bleak,” said a delighted Milsom who came second in his section on the reservoir with a superb 7.440 kg.

Greaves didn’t catch a carp on the river but avoided the dreaded dry net to land some bleak weighing 0.120 kg to collect nine points which put them joint eighth overnight with 28 points.

On day two, Greaves, who fishes for Abbey Lake AC, also opted for a bleak approach and he came third in his section on the reservoir to pick up 18 points with 134 bleak for 2.960 kg. Milsom, who competes for the top-rated Essex County Van Den Eynde squad, fished double sweetcorn on a size 8 hook to 10 lb line at 60 yards on the river to weigh in 10.740 kg and come second in his section.

Milsom said: “I had one carp in the third hour and I was starting to sweat a bit towards the end and began setting up a rod for bleak. But then I caught two lovely carp in the last hour which gave me second place in my section.” With a total of 37 points, that made Milsom and Greaves the top pair on day two and lifted them into second place overall with 65 points.

“It’s been a great trip and, although I am really pleased for myself, I am delighted for Matt as this was the first time he had reached an Embassy Challenge final,” added Milsom who was in his fifth Challenge final and equalled his best-ever placing of second in 1994.

Greaves said: “I can’t believe I have finished second in such a major event especially as Kim’s regular partner couldn’t fish the qualifier and Kim asked me to fish with him. I was counting my lucky stars when we qualified and now to come second is a great end to a fantastic trip to Spain.”

Taking home a cheque for £2,000 were the third-placed pairing of Rob Jagger, a 27-year-old maintenance engineer from Penistone, Sheffield and Charles Simpson, 27, and a steel fettler from Crane Moor, nr Sheffield. The Handsworth Angling Centre duo were in their second Challenge final in three years totalled 60 points after lying joint eighth with 28 points at the end of day one.

On that first day, Jagger was sixth in his section on the reservoir with a bleak catch of 2.900 kg while Simpson was eighth on the river with a carp of 2.980 kg – his only bite coming just 10 minutes after the start.

However, they were the third best pair on day two as their 32 point tally lifted them up into third place! Jagger was eighth in the river section with two carp for 7.000 kg while Simpson came second in his section with three carp on the feeder for 5.820 kg.

Jagger said: “I lost four carp in the weed on day two but then loads of anglers also lost fish. We were really pleased to move up into third place – let’s hope we can qualify next year as it’s been a fantastic trip.”


1 Carl Lowe (Farnworth, Bolton) and Martin Howcroft (Westhoughton, Bolton) 70 pts (£6,000)

2 Kim Milsom (Cirencester, Gloucs)) and Matt Greaves (Cirencester, Gloucs) 65 pts (£3,000)

3 Rob Jagger (Penistone, Sheffield) and Charles Simpson (Crane Moor, nr Sheffield) 60 pts (£2,000)

4 Dave Chadwick (Tottington, Bury) and Steve Lomax (Ramsbottom, Bury) 59 pts (£1,500)

5 Paul Carthy (Huntington, Cannock, Staffs) and Nathan Matthew (Brereton, Rugeley, Staffs) 58 pts (£1,000)

6 Derek Moulding (Balsall Common, Coventry) and Maurice Williams (Southam, Warwicks) 57 pts (£750)


OVERALL (BEST ONE DAY WEIGHT)1 Dave Brown (Fallings Park, Wolverhampton) 20.080 kg (£2,000); 2 Carl Lowe (Farnworth, Bolton) 18.360 kg; 3 Steve Fretwell (Old Harworth, Doncaster) 17.940 kg; 4 Malcolm Green (Ossett, Yorks) 15.520 kg; 5 Stu Dexter (Thurmaston, Leicester) 12.440 kg; 6 Martin Howcroft (Westhoughton, Bolton) 12.060 kg


1 Martin Howcroft (Westhoughton, Bolton) 12.060 kg; 2 Paul Kaye (Hereford) 11.900 kg; 3 Steve Lomax (Ramsbottom, Bury) 11.380 kg; 4 Maurice Williams (Southam, Warwicks) 11.040 kg; 5 Steve Lowther (Prospect, Worksop) 9.420 kg; 6 Ian Holian (Finningley, Doncaster) 9.340 kg


1 Dave Brown (Fallings Park, Wolverhampton) 20.080 kg; 2 Carl Lowe (Farnworth, Bolton) 18.360 kg; 3 Steve Fretwell (Old Harworth, Doncaster) 17.940 kg; 4 Malcolm Green (Ossett, Yorks) 15.520 kg; 5 Stu Dexter (Thurmaston, Leicester) 12.440 kg; 6 Kim Milsom (Cirencester, Gloucs) 10.740 kg